A student diagnosed with “booze heartburn” was horrified to discover that she actually has incurable cancer.
“It literally turned my life around,” Georgia Ford, 20, told Kennedy News about a misdiagnosis that is horribly wrong. “Within a few weeks, I went from a full student to being in the hospital as a cancer patient.”
A native of Gloucester, England, she has a rare cancer called papillary kidney cell carcinoma – which involves a tumor that originates in her kidneys that has metastasized to her lungs, liver, lymph nodes and bones.
Ford first went to the doctor after feeling sick from heartburn – a symptom of acid reflux – after which he inquired about her drinking habits.
They were like, ‘Do you drink a lot?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I obviously did,’ so they put these pills on to protect my stomach lining, “recalled Ford, who studied law at the University of Exeter.
She became suspicious of the doctor’s diagnosis after visiting the house – and although she did not drink during her stay, her symptoms persisted.
When the pills failed, her doctors reportedly attributed her discomfort to another, inconspicuous back pain she had experienced since August 2020. Hospitals misdiagnosed it as muscle cramps.
“I reduced my back pain due to poor posture or sleeping position,” Ford said. “I always fainted and sat ridiculous.”
Ford later realized that was not the case. In October 2021, her lower back pain flared up again – “obviously looking back” a sign of kidney problems, she said. The scholar was in so much pain that she could barely lie down.
But her “main symptom,” Ford pointed out in Kennedy News, was a cough so strong it would dry her breath and cause vomiting.
“I coughed so much that I ended up getting sick,” the patient said. “That’s when I started losing weight because I didn’t hold my food well.”
Despite a series of alarming symptoms, doctors still did not believe the upcoming lawyer was a serious condition.
“I went to my GP because of that a few times,” Ford said. “Every time we would try something new and it wouldn’t work, and I would go back and try something else.”
She added: “They basically said it was all in my head and that I wasn’t sick at all. I said, ‘I don’t believe I have this many severe symptoms and it’s all in my head.’
Eventually Ford checked into the emergency room after her cough became so severe that she had difficulty walking long distances or climbing stairs. She even started coughing up blood. And while investigators found “blurred spots” on her lungs, doctors assured Ford it was “nothing life-threatening,” she said.
Despite this, she received a three-month referral to a respiratory specialist even though her condition was deteriorating sharply and she had lost more than 20 pounds.
Since she had nowhere else to turn, Ford booked an appointment with a private doctor in November 2021, who eventually diagnosed her with PRCC.
This year, about 79,000 new cases of kidney (kidney) cancer will be diagnosed in the United States alone. Most common in adults 55 and older, PRCC affects 15% of people with kidney cancer, causing symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, fever and bloody urine, according to the National Institutes of Health.
When Ford’s cancer was discovered, it had already spread throughout her body, causing countless other symptoms, such as her mysterious cough.
Her condition, she will find out, was “incurable”.
“Very few times in my life have I been left speechless… words have completely eluded me,” Ford said of the moment she learned of her diagnosis. “It’s just like this irresistible sadness.”
In an effort to curb the cancer, the patient began immunotherapy, including daily pills and intravenous (IV) treatment. She also takes portable oxygen tanks whenever she comes out, and uses an oxygen tube at night to make her breathing easier.
Ford says her goal is to “live normally” and feel good enough to continue her law studies in September. It also launched GoFundMe to raise funds for two charities dedicated to fighting the PRCC.
Despite the positive view, Ford says she can’t help but speculate whether her prognosis would have been different if doctors had caught the disease earlier.
“I don’t know how much more I got sick at the time and whether, had he been caught a little earlier, my story could have been a little different,” she said. “It’s one of those questions I’ll never know, but I always wonder.”
Ford now hopes to use his torment as a warning story that highlights the dangers of not listening to his own body.
“If you think something is wrong, you have to push and push,” she said.